Quote/s of the Day – 23 July – the Memorial of St John Cassian (c 360- c 435), St Bridget of Sweden (c 1303 – 1373)
“Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God.”
“No structure of virtue can possibly be raised in our soul unless, first, the foundations of true humility are laid in our heart.”
“The thief on the cross certainly did not receive the Kingdom of Heaven as a reward for his virtues but as a grace and a mercy from God. He can serve as an authentic witness that our salvation is given to us only by God’s mercy and grace. All the holy masters knew this and unanimously taught that perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility.”
St John Cassian (c 360- c 435)
“O Lord, make haste and illumine the night. Say to my soul that nothing happens without You permitting it and that nothing of what You permit, is without comfort.”
“There is no sinner in the world, however much at enmity with God, who cannot recover God’s grace, by recourse to Mary and by asking her assistance.”
Quote/s of the Day – 19 July – “Month of the Most Precious Blood” – The Sixteenth Sunday of the Year in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86:5-6,9-10, 15-16, Romans 8:26-27, Matthew 13:24-43
“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom, all causers of sin and all law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
“Every man will receive the eternal punishment, or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognised this, no-one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments.”
St Justin Marytr (100-165)
Father of the Church and Martyr
“Then shall those, already in the midst of the torments, cry out with pleading voices and there will be no-one to speak for them to the Lord and they shall not be heard.”
St Ephrem (306-373)
Father and Doctor of the Church
“I am filled with fear and trembling and all my bones are shaken, at the thought of that unhappy country of the damned.”
St Bernard (1090-1153)
Mellifluous Doctor of the Church
“So then, I am speaking to you who live in the habit of mortal sin, in hatred, in the mire of the vice of impurity and who are getting closer to hell each day. Stop! and turn around; it is Jesus who calls you and who, with His wounds, as with so many eloquent voices, cries to you, “My son, if you are damned, you have only yourself to blame: ‘Thy damnation comes from thee.’ Lift up your eyes and see all the graces with which I have enriched you to insure your eternal salvation.'”
St Leonard of Port Maurice (1676-1751)
“Poor Judas! Above  years have elapsed since he has been in Hell and his Hell is still only beginning.”
St Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (1696-1787)
Most Zealous Doctor of the Church
“Meditate on the horrors of Hell, which will last for eternity because of one easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think of the eternal flames of Hell and how few there are that are saved.”
“I was watching souls going down into the abyss, as thick and fast as snowflakes, falling in the winter mist.”
St Benedict Joseph Labre (1748-1783)
“I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell, as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.”
St John Marie Baptiste Vianney (1786-1859)
“The natural fire that we see during this life has great power to burn and torment. Yet this is not even a shadow of the fire of Hell.”
Saint of the Day – 18 June – Saint Elisabeth of Schönau (1129-1164) Abbess, Mystic, Ascetic, Writer, Spiritual Adivisor – born in 1126 in Bingen, Germany and died on 18 June 1164 at Bingen, Germany of natural causes.
In the mid 12th century, Elisabeth of Schönau blurred the conventional gender roles of the time, through the dissemination of her astonishing visions. Elisabeth lived during a time when women were viewed as the weaker sex, both mentally and physically. Unless a woman were to join a convent or a religious movement, she would be expected to marry and to bear children. Elisabeth of Schönau, however, was far from powerless, as her visions led her to acquire enough fame to be known far and wide. Elisabeth became, not only a local celebrity as a result of her visions but, gained popularity throughout other parts of Germany, as well as in France and England. This enabled Elisabeth to have her own voice, to be known as an individual and to be sought after in an effort to acquire heavenly advice by high order men, including Bishops and Abbots. For men of such high order to call upon Elisabeth, a mere woman, is extremely significant given the time period in which Elisabeth lived. Elisabeth’s visions, as well as her twenty-two letters to Bishops, Abbots and Abbesses, enabled her to transcend the traditional gender roles of the time by making her widely known and giving her an individual voice.
Elisabeth was born about 1129, of an obscure noble family named Hartwig. At the age of 12 she was given to the nuns for education in the St Florin double abbey founded a few years earlier. At the age of 18 she entered the women’s Congregation. She made her profession as a Benedictine in 1147. In 1157 she became Abbess of the nuns under the supervision of Abbot Hildelin.
Her hagiography describes her as given to works of piety from her youth, much afflicted with bodily and mental suffering, a zealous observer of the Rule of Saint Benedict and of the regulation of her convent and devoted to practices of mortification. In the years 1147 to 1152 Elisabeth suffered recurrent disease, anxiety and depression as a result of her strict asceticism. St Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) Doctor of the Church admonished Elisabeth in letters to be prudent in the ascetic life. St Hildegard here: https://anastpaul.com/2018/09/17/saint-of-the-day-17-september-st-hildegard-von-bingen-osb-1098-1179-doctor-of-the-church/
At Pentecost in 1152, she first had spiritual experiences of a visionary nature, which she and the nuns and monks understood as the authentic message of God. These generally occurred on Sundays and Holy Days at Mass or Divine Office or after hearing or reading the lives of Saints. Christ, the Virgin Mary, an angel, or the special Saint of the day would appear to her and instruct her; or she would see quite realistic representations of the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, or other scenes of the Old and New Testaments.
She died on 18 June 1164 at the age of only 35 and was buried in the St Florin Abbey Church. It is extremely remarkable that she was not buried in the Monastery cemetery or in the Chapel of the nuns but in a prominent place in the Abbey Church itself. This was unusual and testifies to absolute acceptance of her mystical life, writings and deep veneration. There has never been a formal Canonisation process (pre-congregation) but every year on the day after her death, that is, on 19 June her memory is celebrated in the Monastery and surrounding towns. It was not until the late 16th century that she was officially included in the list of Saints at the request of the Archbishop of Mainz and the monks of Schönau (Martyrologium Romanum).
What Elisabeth saw and heard she put down on wax tablets. Her Abbot, Hildelin, told her to relate these things to her brother Eckbert, then a cleric at Saint Cassius in Bonn, who acted as an editor. At first she hesitated fearing lest she be deceived or be looked upon as a deceiver but she obeyed. Eckbert (who became a Monk of Schönau in 1155 and eventually succeeded Hildelin as second Abbot) put everything in writing, later arranged the material at leisure and then published all under his sister’s name.
While this relationship between brother and sister allowed for Elisabeth’s wide broadcasting of her visionary experiences, it is evident that Eckbert attempted to have a degree of authority over Elisabeth. Elisabeth’s response to Eckbert’s efforts regarding certain visions is just one example of how Elisabeth’s actions blurred the conventional gender roles. The works are published in English in a Collected Works edition.
Schönau Monastery is a popular place of pilgrimage today. The Franciscan Minor Monastery is picturesquely situated in the Saale Valley in a river arch on the Franconian Saale. Steep mountain slopes flank the Monastery and the small town of Schönau.
Saint of the Day – 26 May – Saint Mariana de Jesus de Paredes OFS (1618-1645) “The Lily of Quito,”Third Order Franciscan, Hermit, Penitent, Mystic, Ecstatic, miracle-worker and she was endowed with the charism of prophecy – born as María Ana de Jesús de Paredes y Flores on 31 October 1618 at Quito, Ecuador and died on 26 May 1645 at Quito, Ecuador, aged 26. St Mariana is first Canonised Saint of Ecuador and she has been declared a National Herione. Patronages – Ecuador, Americas, bodily ills, loss of parents, people rejected by religious orders, sick people, sickness. Her Incorrupt body is enshrined in the Cathedral of La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús.
Mariana de Jesus de Paredes was born in the city of Quito, in the New Kingdom of Granada (modern-day Ecuador). She was born of aristocratic parents on both sides of her family, her father was Don Girolamo Flores Zenel de Paredes, a nobleman of Toledo, Spain and her mother was Doña Mariana Cranobles de Xaramilo, a descendant of one of the best Spanish families. Mariana was the youngest of eight children and it is claimed her birth was accompanied by most unusual phenomena in the heavens, clearly connected with the child and juridically attested at the time of the process of her Beatification.
She was orphaned at a very young age and, thereafter, she was raised by her older sister, Jerónima de Paredes and the latter’s husband, Cosme de Caso. Mariana was drawn to a spiritual life, her sister and brother-in-law allowed her to live in seclusion in their house, living “the life of an uncloistered beata,” similar to Rose of Lima to whom she is often compared. She was refused entry into a convent, despite supplication by her brother-in-law and surrogate father, Cosme de Caso. She subjected herself to bodily mortification, with the aid of her Indian servant. She did not live in total seclusion but rather focused her spiritual life on the nearby Jesuit church, where she participated in a number of apostolates.
Her spiritual life was closely connected to the Jesuits and her religious name “de Jesús” was no doubt intentional. Following her death in 1645, her funeral and burial were in the Jesuit church. The funeral sermon that the priest Fr Alonso de Rojas preached emphasised her bodily mortification and renunciation of the flesh and put her forward as a model for females in Quito to emulate. “Learn girls of Quito, from your fellow countrywoman, [to prefer] holiness over beauty, virtues over ostentation.” The sermon became a key document in the long process to establish her saintliness, Beatification (1853) and final Canonisation (1950).
The Franciscans claimed de Paredes as a holy person. She did wear the Franciscan scapulary and sash but her seventeenth-century Jesuit hagiographer, Jacinto Morán de Butrón, confirmed that the Jesuits nurtured her spiritual life. Soon after Mariana’s 1645 death, the Franciscan province of Peru, based in Lima, included a biography of Mariana in the history of the province citing the Jesuit funeral sermon as a source. She received the habit of the Third Order from the Franciscans in her native town of Quito. ccording to her Jesuit hagiographer, Mariana did not go to the Franciscan church to receive the garments but sent someone else.
It is reported that the fast which she kept was so strict that she took scarcely an ounce of dry bread every eight or ten days. The food which miraculously sustained her life, as in the case of Catherine of Siena and Rose of Lima, was, according to the sworn testimony of many witnesses, the Eucharist alone, which she received every morning in Holy Communion.
Mariana possessed an ecstatic gift of prayer and is said to have been able to predict the future, see distant events as if they were passing before her, read the secrets of hearts, cure diseases by a mere sign of the Cross or by sprinkling the sufferer with holy water and at least once restored a dead person to life. During the 1645 earthquakes and subsequent epidemics in Quito, she publicly offered herself as a victim for the city and died shortly thereafter.
It is also reported that, on the day she died, her sanctity was revealed in a wonderful manner – immediately after her death, a pure white lily sprang up from her blood, blossomed and bloomed, a miracle which has given her the title of “The Lily of Quito.” The Republic of Ecuador has declared her a national heroine.
St Mariana was Beatified on 10 November 1853, Rome by Pope Pius IX and
was Canonised on 9 July 1950 Rome, by Pope Pius XII.
St Mariana’s incorrupt body is exposed and venerated at her shrine at the Cathedral of La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, known colloquially as La Compañía, is a Jesuit Cathedral in Quito, Ecuador.
One Minute Reflection – 25 May – “Mary’s Month” – Monday of the Seventh week of Easter, Readings: Acts 19:1-8, Psalm 68:2-7, John 16:29-33 and the Memorial of St Maria Magdalena de’ Pazzi O.Carm (1566-1607)
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have conquered the world.” ... John 16:33
REFLECTION – “Let nothing intervene to hinder the progress of any who travel alongside each other, in this evangelical life but let us walk with agile step though the road be rough and hard, let us show a brave and manly spirit, overcome obstacles, pass along from pathway to pathway, from hill to hill, until we climb onto the mountain of the Lord and make a home for ourselves in the holy place of His impassibility.
Now, companions assist each other on the way; so then, my brothers, as the apostle says: “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2) and make up for whatever is lacking to others (cf. 2 Cor 8:14 ; Phil 2:30). To the negligence that perhaps holds sway today, noble courage will succeed tomorrow, now one is in gloom and then suddenly one rises to the surface and discovers joy again, at one moment our passions rise up but soon God comes to help us, they are broken and calm returns. For you will only be seen like this yesterday and the day before but, dear friend, you will not always remain the same but the grace of God will draw near you, the Lord will fight for you and perhaps, like the great Antony, you will say: “Where were you just now?” and he will answer: “I wanted to see your combat.”
For now, let us persevere, children, dear children, let us be patient for a little, brothers, dear brothers.… Who will be crowned without having fought? Who will go to rest if he is not tired (cf. 2 Tim 2:5-6)? Who will gather the fruits of life without having planted virtues in his soul? Cultivate them, prepare the earth with the greatest care, take trouble over it, sweat over it, children, God’s workers, imitators of the angels, competitors with incorporeal beings, lights for those who are in the world (cf. Phil 2:15)!” … St Theodore the Studite (759-826) Monk – Catechesis 28
PRAYER – Lord God, as You brought joy to the world, through the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, grant that through His Virgin Mother, we may constantly seek and recognise our Lord and Saviour and turn to Him in complete trust and love. May we ever live in confidence and share our joy with our neighbour. St Maria Magdalena de’ Pazzi, pray that we may know the courage of our Saviour. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever, amen.
Saint of the Day – 25 May – Saint Maria Magdalena de’ Pazzi O.Carm (1566-1607) Carmelite Nun and Mystic, Ecstatic, she bi-located and was the intercessor of many miracles, Stigmatist – born as Caterina de’ Pazzi (but in the family was called Lucrezia) in 1566 at Florence, Italy and died on 25 May 1607 of natural causes. Patronages – against bodily ills, against sexual temptation, against sickness, sick people, Naples (co-patron).
The second of four children, Caterina was born in Florence on 2 April 1566, to Camilo de’ Pazzi and Maria Buondelmonti. In the comfortable setting of a noble family, that began to call her Lucrezia, after her paternal grandmother, the young girl grew up peacefully and with a certain sensitivity to the aesthetic side of her social condition. Her heart was open to God and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, in great simplicity, which is something we can see in the way she might share her lunch pack with a needy person, out of compassion, or the way she would help the children of the poor by gently offering them the first truths of faith. Her mother’s deep piety and the visits to her home by the Jesuit Fathers, that her parents invited regularly, helped to stamp on Caterina’s soul that sense of Church, “sensus ecclesiae,” that in later life would appeal so much to her conscience.
At eight years of age, she was sent as a pupil to the nuns at San Giovannino. The nuns, who noticed the contemplative nature of the child, prepared her for First Holy Communion and not many weeks later, Caterina was sufficiently mature to offer her virginity to God. She was ten years old and now she didn’t need anymore to get the scent of Jesus, by standing near her mother when she had received Holy Communion, now, she began to meditate on the humanity of Jesus. As she was learning to read, she came across the Athanasian Creed and she was very inspired by it. In the same way, she grew to be totally enamoured by the meditations of St Augustine and the Lord’s Passion by Loarte, which she read on the advice of Fr Andrea Rossi, who was her Spiritual Director. The artworks below are of St Augustine writing on her heart.
She had not yet reached the age of seventeen, when she showed her desire to be consecrated to God in religious life. Having overcome the initial opposition of her family, she entered the monastery in Borgo San Frediano, to join the Carmelite community of Santa Maria degli Angeli who were very happy to have her. They allowed her to begin as a Postulant on 8 December 1582. This community, that was well known to and highly regarded by the Bishop of Florence, was attractive to the young girl, principally because of the possibility of receiving Holy Communon everyday.
Two months after entering, on 30 January 1853, Caterina received the Carmelite habit, and with it, the name, Sr Maria Magdalena. At the end of the novitiate year, it was decided, that she would put her profession back until there were other Novices ready to join her. Maria Magdalena , however, got very sick in the following months, to the point of almost dying. With little hope of recovery – even the best doctors in the city had failed to diagnose what today we would call pneuomonia – the Prioress decided to have her make her profession in danger of death, in articulo mortis.
About one hour after her profession, something happened to Magdalena. It was an experience of rapture in God. The sisters tell us that when they went to visit her in the infirmary, they came upon the young eighteen year old patient, transfigured and looking very beautiful. From that day onwards, it was 27 May 1584, the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, the Lord visited her every morning, for forty days and revealed the depth of his love to her. These frequent episodes gave rise to many misgivings in the young girl whose only desire was to live in the hiddenness of her life in Carmel but, it was obvious, that this kind of grace had to be recognised and preserved. For that reason, the sisters began very soon to take notes, writing down what Magdalena. would say while in ecstasy and what she would say, out of obedience, to the Prioress and Mistress.
Towards the end of that same year, a new period of divine favour began for her. This time, Jesus, the divine Word, held her in intense conversation (reported in I Colloqui) that revealed increasingly, the bridal relationship that Christ had formed with her. It was in one of those ecstasies that Christ brought her into His passion and death. It was Holy Week in 1585 – her experiences included the Stigmata impresssed on her soul, the Crown of Thorns, the Crucifixion and every scene from the Gospel was displayed, as if it was happening live in that slender tormented body. Then, on the Sunday after Easter, she received from her divine Bridegroom the ring of her mystical marriage.
The manuscript titled, Revelazioni e Intelligenze, gives a faithful account of the communication of God’s grace, that in the days between the vigil of Pentecost and the Sunday of the Blessed Trinity, gave Magdalena, an entry into the revelation, of the inner dimensions of her Trinitarian life. What was communicated to her, was what goes on between the divine person, and how the human person can fulfil a supernatural vocation, by allowing this mystery dwelling within, to do its work.
The central element in this understanding, is the saving mission of the Word, Love, made flesh in the most pure womb of the Virgin Mary and the intuition of “dead love” as the highest expression of the ultimate gift of self.
On the last day of this intense octave of Pentecost, Magdalena began to see, with some clarity, that the moment had arrived when God, as He had made known to her already on a few occasions, was about to take away from her, the enjoyment of His presence. That was the beginning of five very difficulty years of torment and temptation, to the point where she felt as if she had been thrown into the “lions’ den” and reduced to “nothing.” In these interior trials, described in the Probazione, Jesus continued to support her but without lessening the radical purification that striped her bare, made her more simple and extremely receptive to His visits. In the heart of the crucible, however, Magdalena also received understanding from God concerning the condition of the Church of her time – so slow to implement the renewal sought by the Council of Trent – and she felt that she was being drawn by the Truth, to be involved in a practical way, in calling to order prelates, cardinals and even the Pope, Sixtus V. The twelve letters that she dictated in ecstasy, in the Summer of 1586 are collected in the volume titled, Rinnovamento della Chiesa. The five years of trial restored to us a Magdalena. transformed . The Lord had brought her through a divinising process, through which, today, she could well be considered a master and guide.
After Pentecost 1590, she returned to the normality of ordinary life, something she had always wanted. Apart from just a few and important, moments of ecstasy (reported in the second part of the Probazione) her days passed quietly as she went about the jobs she had to do (on account of her spiritual maturity she was put in charge of the young sisters in formation) and all the other forms of humble service that she tended to seek. Then the experience of “naked suffering” took hold of her and this would unite her once and for all to the Crucified Bridegroom.
Sr Magdalena could read the thoughts of others and predict future events. For instance, during one ecstatic event she predicted the future elevation to the Papacy of Cardinal Alessandro de’ Medici (as Pope Leo XI). During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured many sick people.
The symptoms of tuberculosis began to appear in 1603. As her strength declined, she suffered the added pain of not being able to feel anything of the Lord’s presence. Just her presence in the community, in the eyes of the sisters, had become a vision of God’s work of art about to be completed. On 25 May 1607, at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, Sr Maria Magdalena, at the age of forty-one gave up her spirit.
She was buried in the choir of the Monastery chapel. She was Beatified in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII. At her Canonisation in 1668, her body was declared miraculously incorrupt. Her body is located in the Monastery of Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi in Careggi.
Saint of the Day – 12 March – Blessed Giustina Francucci Bezzoli (c 1257-1319) Virgin of the Order of St Benedict, Hermitess and Anchoress, Mystic – born in c 1257 in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy and died on 12 March 1319 in Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy of natural causes while praying. A white lily grew out of the stone of her tomb. Her body is incorrupt. Patronages – eye and sight diseases and problems, demonics.
In Florence, in the Benedictine monastery of St Maria del Fiore in Lapo, the incorrupt body of Blessed Giustina Bezzoli Francucci is kept and venerated, moved here from the Monastery of the Holy Spirit of Arezzo in 1968, when the two cloistered communities met. The large church of the monastery, in the centre of the village north of Florence, on Via Faentina, has also been a parish since 1938 and so, in admirable harmony, the two communities live and pray side by side, enriching each other with different gifts of the Spirit. The nuns’ choir is the extension of the church and in the centre there is the tabernacle. The community was founded by the wealthy Lapo da Fiesole who in 1350 hosted the first nuns here. On 13 October of that year, Bishop S. Andrea Corsini consecrated the monastery with the rule of St Augustine and with the title of St Maria del Fiore which is older here than the Florentine cathedral . The Augustinians remained until 1808, when they had to leave because of the laws for the suppression of religious orders, the Benedictines took over in 1817. The tomb with the body of the Blessed is placed in a wall that unites the two communities and is visible from both sides – her face looks towards the cloister and seems to invite the lay faithful to dedicate time to prayer.
Blessed Giustina was a descendant of a very noble family, the Bezzoli Francucci and was born in Arezzo between 1257 and 1260. With a lovable and humble character, she quickly gained a certain maturity. In the rich paternal home, between ease and comfort, she assimilated with daily prayer, the most genuine religious sentiments. She often deprived herself of food and loved to retire to her room to pray, thus the decision to consecrate herself to God matured at a very young age. Her parents refused her permission and denied her any argument. A single, beloved daughter, heir of conspicuous wealth, she had a very enviable future ahead of her – marriage to a man worthy of her family. We know, however, that the ways of the Lord are not the ways of men – she first convinced her father with many tears and pleadings, then it was the turn of her paternal uncle, who was also determined not to deprive himself of his only
niece. A serious illness of the father made everyone reflect on the transience of things and Giustina obtained the desired approval. She was only twelve years old and this decision is incomprehensible to us but, at that time, important choices were sometimes made at that age.
Giustina was welcomed into the monastery of St Marco (which no longer exists today), bringing only an image of the Crucifix with her. A dove landed on her head upon entry, an eloquent sign that the Holy Spirit was already assisting the humble daughter of the Holy Father Benedict. She left everything to devote herself to meditating on the Word of God – the rough habit took the place of opulent silks and satin clothes. Giustina was an exemplary novice, in the simplest tasks she responded with obedience to the needs of the community. Giustina stayed in the monastery for about four years, until she was forced to leave with her sisters because of the wars that devastated the city. With her Crucifix she moved to the Monastery of All Saints but even here the stay was not long.
One day she heard that in a cave, at the Castle of Civitella, a virgin named Lucia voluntarily lived. To join this Lucis, it to share the most austere practice of Christian virtues became her greatest desire. With the permission of Bishop Guglielmo Umbertini she moved to the hermitage where Lucia, very happily, welcomed her. In extreme poverty they received a visit from Giustina’s father who, we can imagine with how much anguish, he tried in vain to bring her home.
The coexistence of the two anchorites lasted only a few years, until Lucia became seriously ill and the young companion assisted her with love until the moment of her death. Left alone, Giustina continued to live devoted only to prayer and penance, visibly comforted by the Celestial Bridegroom who, through an angel, defended her several times from the attacks of wolves. Such and many deprivations could not fail to undermine her health and at only thirty-five she began to have serious vision problems. She was forced to return to the monastery amidst the jubilation of the sisters who
now saw in her a heavenly soul. However, the monastery was subject to soldiers’ raids
and the bishop Ildebrando Guidi had to transfer it to a safe place. It was the year 1315 and Giustina changed residence again.
The Blessed had a singular devotion to the Passion of Christ and, although sick, she practised many mortifications. She spent the last twenty years of her life, completely blind, falling into ecstasy several times, even in the presence of her sisters. She lived in conditions of great misery but always confident in Providence and those who asked for a word of comfort did not fail to help them as much as she could. She died praying, surrounded by her companions, on 12 March 1319. On her body were evident, the sores caused by an iron chain, that for years had encased her fragile body.
The graces obtained through her intercession were immediately numerous. A white lily grew spontaneously on her grave and with this attribute, Giotto painted it for the Florentine Church of Mercy. The body, ten years after her death, was surprisingly flexible and the Bishop of Arezzo, Buono degli Uberti, confirmed the spontaneous cult that had been born in the people. Two centuries later her body was enclosed in an iron chest until 1709, when it it was again exhumed and confirmed to be incorrupt. An ancient war flag was found in the coffin left by a captain as an ex voto around 1384. Some fragments of the banner were distributed to the faithful as relics.
Blessed Giustina is invoked especially for eye and sight problems but some demoniacs have also been exorcised in front of her Shrine.
Blessed Giustina was Beatified on 14 January 1891 by Pope Leo XIII (cultus confirmation).
Quote/s of the Day – 4 January – Saturday of Christmas – the Memorial of Saint Angela of Foligno (1248-1309)
“Dear brothers and sisters, Blessed Angela’s life began with a worldly existence, rather remote from God. Yet her meeting with the figure of St Francis and, finally, her meeting with Christ Crucified, reawakened her soul to the presence of God, for the reason that with God alone life becomes true life, because, in sorrow for sin, it becomes love and joy. And this is how Blessed Angela speaks to us.
Today we all risk living as though God did not exist, God seems so distant from daily life. However, God has thousands of ways of His own for each one, to make Himself present in the soul, to show that He exists and knows and loves me. And Blessed Angela wishes to make us attentive to these signs with which the Lord touches our soul, attentive to God’s presence, so as to learn the way with God and towards God, in communion with Christ Crucified.
Let us pray the Lord that He make us attentive to the signs of His presence and that He teach us truly to live.”
Pope Benedict XVI A talk on Angela of Foligno – October, 2010
“O children of God, transform yourselves totally in the human-God who so loved you that He chose to die for you, a most ignominious and altogether unutterably painful death and in the most painful and bitterest way. And this was solely for love of you, O human being.”
One Minute Reflection – 4 January – Saturday of Christmas, Readings:
1 John 3:7-10, Psalm 98:1, 7-9, John 1:35-42
He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying and they stayed with him that day … John 1:39
REFLECTION – “John was there and two of his disciples with him.” John was such “a friend of the Bridegroom” that he did not seek his own glory, he simply bore witness to the truth (Jn 3:29.26). Did he dream of keeping back his disciples and preventing them from following the Lord? Not in the least. He himself showed them the one they were to follow (…) He declared: “Why cling to me? I am not the Lamb of God. Behold the Lamb of God (…) Behold him who takes away the sins of the world.”
At these words the two disciples who were with John followed Jesus. “Jesus turned and saw that they were following him and said to them: ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him: ‘Rabbi, where are you staying?” As yet they were not following Him definitively, as we know, they joined themselves to Him when He called them to leave their boat (…), when He said to them: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). That was the moment they joined Him definitively, no longer to leave Him. But for now they wanted to see where Jesus was living and put into practice the words of Scripture: “If you see an intelligent man, seek him out at daybreak; let your feet wear away his doorstep! Learn from him the precepts of the Lord” (cf. Sir 6:36f.). So Jesus showed them where He was living, they went and stayed with Him. What a happy day they spent! What a blessed night! Who can say what it was they heard from the Lord’s mouth? Let us, too, build a dwelling in our hearts, construct a house where Christ can come to teach and converse with us.” … St Augustine (354-430) Bishop of Hippo, Father & Doctor of the Church – Sermons on Saint John’s Gospel, no 7
PRAYER – Almighty God, the light of a new star in heaven, heralded Your saving love . Let the light of Your salvation dawn in our hearts and keep them always open to Your life-giving grace. May we stay with Your Son, for He will teach us Your ways. Kindly hear the prayers on our behalf of Mary our mother and of all Your saints and may St Angela of Foligno intercede today on our behalf. Through Christ, our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God now and forever, amen.
Saint of the Day – 16 December – Blessed Mary of the Angels Fontanella OCD (1661-1717) “The Fragrant Rose of Turin,” Discalced Carmelite, Mystic, Stigmatist, Marian devotee and client of St Joseph, Prioress, Spiritual director – born as Marianna Fontanella on 7 January 1661 at Balderino, Italy and died on 16 December 1717 of natural causes at Turin, Iraly. Also known as Maria degli Angeli, Maria Fontanella of the Angels. Bl Mary studied with the Cistercians as a child and entered the Discalced Carmelites despite the protests of her mother and siblings – she soon became a noted abbess and prioress and in 1703 inaugurated a new convent she herself oversaw the establishment of and later, instigated the building of a beautiful Basilica in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
Marianna Fontanella came into the world on January 7, 1661. She was the youngest of 11 children born to Count Giovanni of Turin and his wife, Lady Maria Tana. The mother had among her close relatives, the mother of St Aloysius de Gonzaga SJ (1568-1591), a youthful aristocrat who renounced a life of privilege to become a holy Jesuit. The fact that there was an official Saint counted among her kin was undoubtedly a source of pride for the family but it wasn’t enough to impress Marianna to want to become one too. It was related that this Blessed initially lived her early years in a manner typical of her high social status – she was well-educated, pampered and exposed to all sorts of social niceties and assemblies … and she enjoyed it all, especially the fancy outfits and the dances.
However, on one particular day, while still a young child, she sat in front of a mirror admiring herself when her own reflection vanished to be replaced by a vision – Christ appeared in the mirror, sadly staring back at her, battered and crowned with thorns. The experience so shocked Marianna that it had the immediate effect of a lasting conversion. From that moment on she shunned her elaborate wardrobe and jewellery and began exercising a devout mode of living despite her tender age. In 1667 she schemed with a little brother to imitate the saints and to run off to live “in the desert” though, at the time they were meant to begin this journey, the two were so fast asleep that their plan was spoiled.
Due to her familial relationship with him, she adopted Saint Luigi Gonzaga as a model for personal holiness and made an effort to imitate the late saint’s example. In 1673 as a 12-year-old, Marianna accompanied one of her sisters to the Cistercian Monastery in Saluzzo where the latter was entering into religious life. Somehow, Marianna was able to persuade her parents to allow her to board with the nuns and she remained with them for over a year until her mother recalled her home due to the unexpected death of her father. Back at the family villa, she resisted her family’s efforts to marry her off and she practised a regimen of prayer and self-mortification. Apparently, while with the Cistercians, an earlier resolve she made to become a nun had strengthened but she was undecided as to which order to join.
After providentially meeting and speaking with a venerable Carmelite priest during one of the rare public exhibitions of the Holy Shroud of Turin, Marianna applied with the local Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Santa Cristina. Lady Maria reluctantly consented when it became clear that her daughter could not be dissuaded, so Marianna made her entrance into Carmel on 19 November 1675, she was 14-years-old and took the name Maria of the Angels.
The first year in the monastery was not easy for the aspiring nun. The sweetness of spirit and the divine favours she had started to enjoy before entering, evaporated, leaving Sr Maria with a terrible dryness in her soul. She clung desperately to her faith and, guided by a meticulous novice mistress, she managed to reach profession on 26 December 1676… but the sense of separation from God – the “dark night of the soul” – continued to torment her for the next 15 years. The devil aggravated the situation, via severe temptations and diabolic assaults.
Fortunately, the beleagured nun weathered her personal storm through the consistent practice of virtue, especially humility and obedience towards her superiors. All that she suffered, served to purify her spirit, as Jesus was leading her on a singular path of extraordinary mystical union with Himself, as was proven later on.
By 1691 Sr Maria was finally free of the darkness and began experiencing supernatural lights with greater intensity. Sublime visions of Christ and heavenly inhabitants resumed, along with other mystical gifts such as Prophecy, the Stigmata and the Fragrance of Sanctity. It was reported that the beautiful scent that constantly surrounded her was so obvious, that the other nuns could track her whereabouts by following the aroma she left in her wake. The Blessed, on her part, took to carrying small bundles of flowers and spices to try to disguise the heavenly scent but to no avail – it increased on feast days and during times when she was ill and unable to take precautions, to disguise the fragrance. Even things she handled, were imbued with the delightful scent!
Noting her many virtues and fine example of Carmelite spirituality, the community elected Sr Maria to the post of novice mistress in 1691 then prioress in 1694. Word soon spread outside of the monastery about the extraordinary prioress and people began seeking her counsel and prayers, including the reigning king of the region, Vittorio Amadeo II of the royal house of Savoy and other members of the nobility. Vocations to the Carmel of St Cristina increased, which necessitated the founding of another monastery in nearby Moncalieri in 1703, with the encouragement from Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710). Sr Maria had hoped to transfer there, to be away from the centre of the limelight but the king explicitly forbade her to ever leave Turin, due to his dependence on her advice and his devotion to her.
Public esteem for the prioress reached a pinnacle in 1696 when the city was besieged by an invading army. She publicly announced that the city would be saved if people turned to St Joseph, for help, which they did. Turin was liberated and, in gratitude, St Joseph was proclaimed the Patron Saint of the city by the king. Similarly, in 1706 when the French besieged the city, the citizens and royals turned to the intercession of their resident mystic – the nun invoked the Holy Virgin’s protection and the city’s army was again victorious. At Sr Mary’s urging, a church – the great Basilica of the Superga (Superga is a Hill in Turin) – was built to commemorate the victory and to honour Our Lady.
Sr Maria of the Angels died peacefully in her monastery on 16 December 1717, after living a productive life of prayer, self-sacrifice and service to her beloved people. She was 56-years-old at the time of her death and all of Turin mourned the passing of she, who had saved them from wars and even a plague in 1714.
At the instigation of King Vittorio, the holy nun’s Cause for Canonisation was started just a few years after the death of Sr Maria. Pope Pius IX declared her a Blessed on 25 April 1865 but a second miracle has yet to be officially recognised for the prioress to reach sainthood. Let us pray for her speedy Canonisation.
Saint of the Day – 11 December – Blessed Francesco Lippi O.Carm (1211-1291) also known as Blessed Franco of Siena – Carmelite Hermit, Mystic, Penitent, with the gift of prophesy. Born in c 1211 at Grotti-Siena, Italy and died on 11 December 1291 in Siena, Italy of natural causes, aged 80.
Blessed Francesco was born at Grotti, Italy of the noble parents, Matteo and Dorotea Lippi.
He spent his dissolute adolescence as a soldier who indulged in many vices. His military unit captured Sarteano from the Orvientani but, during the fighting, he was blinded in 1261. In his supplication in prayer, he promised to change his life if he was healed and regained his sight. After praying fervently to Saint James for his intercession, his sight was indeed restored.
He travelled on a pilgrimage to Campostella and to the Basilica di San Nicola in Bari to visit the tomb of Saint Nicholas. He also travelled to both Loreto, Rome and Siena, where he heard the preaching of Blessed Ambrose Sansedoni OP, a renowned preacher whose oratory, simple rather than elegant, was most convincing and effective. Thereafter, Blessed Francesco resolved to live the remainder of his life as a hermit and to do penance for his earlier life. He shut himself in a small cell and remained there from 1261 to 1266.
Then he entered the Carmelite Order and continued to live as a hermit. He experienced visions of Jesus Christ and the Madonna as well as seeing angels and experiencing the temptations of demons. He became well-known for his prophetic gifts.
He died on 11 December 1291. Part of his relics were relocated to a Carmelite convent in Cremona in 1341.
The confirmation of the late Lippi’s ‘cultus’ (or popular devotion) allowed for Pope Clement X to approve his Beatification in 1670.
Thought for the Day – 29 November – The Memorial of Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos SJ (1711-1735) – First apostle of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Spain.
“On that day you will realise that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
Today’s young Saint and Mystic, Blessed Bernardo’s devotion led him to the most exquisite union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus … the spiritual marriage. Yes. It is no less strange however, that the Word, left His Father, to become one with man, to become Bread from Heaven.
I read someplace that Bl Bernardo’s intercession is especially helpful to those who struggle with the vice of impurity. I think Bernardo’s devotion to the Sacred Heart – the complete surrender of all his affections – is an antidote to all impurity. The grace of espousal seems to me, to be similar to the consummate love of Jesus in the Eucharist for us, whereby He gives us His body, blood, soul and divinity at every Communion. Isn’t it like that? Isn’t that total union what we are called to? At every Communion – even when I feel nothing, see nothing, hear nothing – it seems especially then, that faith supplies.
I never had experiences such as those Bl Bernardo participated in – I’m just grateful to be able to be recollected after each Communion and sometimes, to receive immense consolation too. Knowing He is there and I am with Him. I like the way Bl Bernardo put it: “I see that everything in my heart is moving towards God, drawn like iron to a magnet. It desires only God, searches only for God and longs only for God….”For Bernardo, that was his constant state – and he remained faithful to the graces he received. For me, perhaps this desire is only imperfectly experienced in the thanksgiving after Communion. Which is why I never want to waste those moments of recollection.
“Always holding my right hand, the Lord had me occupy the empty throne, then He fitted on my finger a gold ring…. “May this ring be an earnest of our love. You are Mine and I am yours. You may call yourself and sign Bernardo de Jesus, thus, as I said to my spouse, Santa Teresa, you are Bernardo de Jesus and I am Jesus de Bernardo. My honour is yours, your honor is Mine. Consider My glory that of your Spouse, I will consider yours, that of My spouse. All Mine is yours and all yours is Mine. What I am by nature you share by grace. You and I are one!”– The Visions of Bernard Francis De Hoyos, S.J. by Henri Bechard, S.J.
In the ascetic-mystical life of the saints, God Himself purifies the soul of disordered passions in and through purifying trials and temptations. Thus proving true Christ’s words, ‘what is impossible for man is possible for God.’ Blessed Bernardo was no exception.
As Catholics, we are not at all surprised by the ‘mystical marriage of today’s young Saint with Jesus’. However, it seems the rest are prone to think this an unusual and strange occurrence and regard it as an aberration, so please if you search Blessed Bernardo you might be horrified at some nasty statements – don’t be – you know the better part!
Saint of the Day – 29 November – Blessed Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos SJ (1711-1735) Professed Priest of the Society of Jesus, Mystic, Apostle of the Sacred Heart – born on 21 August 1711 at Torrelobatón, Valladolid, Kingdom of Spain (1711-08-21) and died on 29 November 1735, Valladolid, Spain of natural causes (typhoid), aged 24. The miracle for his Beatification involved a young lady with typhoid.
Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos de Seña was born on 21 August 1711 to Don Manuel de Hoyos and Doña Francisca de Seña. His father worked at the town hall at Torrelobatón near Valladolid. He was baptised on 6 September in his local parish church in the names of “Bernardo Francisco Javier.” He was named in honour of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux and Saint Francis Xavier. He received his Confirmation in 1720.
On 11 July 1726, a not quite fifteen year old Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos y Seña crossed the threshold of the Jesuit novitiate of the Province of Castile. Straightaway he chose the Flemish Saint John Berchmans SJ as his model and intercessor. At his profession on 12 July 1728, he heard Our Lord say to him: “From today on I will unite Myself more intimately to you because of my love for you.” Our Lord, His Virgin Mother, Saint Ignatius, Saint Teresa of Avila and other celestial visitors manifested themselves to the young Jesuit, conversed with him, counselled him and encouraged him. In 1726 both Aloysius Gonzaga SJ and Stanislaus Kostka SJ were Canonised by Pope Benedict XIII. The two became models of holiness for the Jesuit priest, as well as John Berchmans who was already on the course for Canonisation.
On 10 August 1729, the Saviour, covered with His Precious Blood, appeared to Bernardo, and showing him the wound in His Side, said, “Rejected by humanity, I come to find my consolation with chosen souls.” Bernardo’s experience closely resembles that of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque fifty-three years earlier in the Visitation Monastery of Paray-le-Monial in France.
Bernardo was ordained a priest on 2 January 1735, for which he had to obtain special permission due to his young age. Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Francis de Sales, mystically present at the ordination, served as his “godfathers” in the priesthood. In that same year he wrote:
Hitherto I had great confidence in my prayers and petitions, depending on the intercession of the Heart of Jesus, at present I have no doubt about obtaining whatsoever I ask, if it is for the greater glory of God. I am convinced that at the altar, the Eternal Father can refuse me nothing . . . I find myself with views like that of Venerable Father La Colombière concerning the greatness of this sacrifice. Here I am as if I were triumphant, for it seems to me not only that I am making reparation for myself and for the whole world but that the Eternal Father is my debtor.
Now and again, during Mass . . . a word of the Eternal Father has assured me of the satisfaction He takes in His Son and in His Heart and how this satisfaction may embolden me, even at the sight of my sins and ingratitude, to presume as much as I fancy, for all is contained in the merits of Jesus, whose minister I am and whose place I take.”
Father Bernardo de Hoyos died on 29 November 1735 at the age of twenty-four. He left behind the memory of his brief but fruitful ministry as a priest, the reputation of a charism for delivering souls from the vice of impurity – his book, The Hidden Treasure,published under the name of Father John de Loyola and a wealth of detailed accounts of his mystical experiences of the Heart of Jesus.
On 17 January 2009, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, met with the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Archbishop Angelo Amato, S.D.B. The Pope authorised the promulgation of a number of decrees, among them the recognition of a miracle attributed to the Servant of God Bernardo Francisco Hoyos.
On 19 April 2010, Father Bernardo Francisco de Hoyos was beatified in Valladolid, Spain. The ceremony was presided over by Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In addition to nearly a 1,000 priests and more the 20,000 faithful, approximately fifty bishops and cardinals attended the ceremony. The new Blessed’s liturgical memorial was confirmed for today, the anniversary of his death.
Quote of the Day – 19 November – Tuesday of the Thirty Third Week of Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 19:1–10 and the Memorial of St Matilda/Mechtilde of Hackeborn (c 1241-1298)
Devotion of the Three Hail Marys
St Matilda of Hackeborn
was distressed over her eternal salvation
and prayed that the Most Holy Virgin
would assist her at the hour of death.
The Blessed Virgin appeared to her
and reassured her, saying:
“Yes, I will! But I wish, for your part, that you recite three Hail Marys everyday, remembering, in the first, the power received from the Eternal Father, in the second, the wisdom received from the Son, with the third one, the love that has filled the Holy Spirit”.
The Blessed Virgin taught her to pray
and to understand especially,
how the Three Hail Mary’s,
honour, the three persons
of the Blessed Trinity.
Thought for the Day – 16 October – The Memorial of St Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690)
The Twelve Promises of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary
for those Devoted to His Sacred Heart
1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2. I will establish peace in their families.
3. I will console them in all their troubles.
4. They shall find in My Heart an assured refuge during life
and especially at the hour of their death.
5. I will pour abundant blessings on all their undertakings.
6. Sinners shall find in My Heart the source of an infinite ocean of mercy.
7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8. Fervent souls shall speedily rise to great perfection.
9. I will bless the homes where an image of My Heart
shall be exposed and honoured.
10. I will give to priests the power of touching the most hardened hearts.
11. Those who propagate this devotion shall have their names
written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
12. The all-powerful love of My Heart will grant to all those
who shall receive Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months
the grace of final repentance, they shall not die under my displeasure, nor without receiving their Sacraments;
My heart shall be their assured refuge at that last hour.
From Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque’s Vision of Jesus
Saint of the Day – 13 October – Blessed Alexandrina/of Balazar Maria da Costa (1904-1955) Laywoman, Victim Soul, Mystic, Salesian Co-operator – best known as Blessed Alexandrina of Balazar was a Portuguese mystic and victim soul, member of the Association of Salesian Cooperators, who was born and died in Balazar (a rural parish of Póvoa de Varzim). Alexandrina left many written works, which have been studied mainly in Italy by Father Umberto Pasquale. On 25 April 2004 she was declared Blessed by St Pope John Paul II who stated that “her secret to holiness was love for Christ”.
Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on 30 March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda and her lively, well-mannered nature made her likeable to everyone.
Her unusual physical strength and stamina also enabled her to do long hours of heavy farm work in the fields, thus helping the family income.
When she was 12, Alexandrina became sick with an infection and nearly died, the consequences of this infection would remain with her as she grew up and would become the “first sign” of what God was asking of her – to suffer as a “victim soul”.
The consequences of sin:
When Alexandrina was 14, something happened that left a permanent imprint on her, both physically and spiritually – it gave her a face-to-face look at the horror and consequences of sin.
On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground.
Her injuries were many and the doctors diagnosed her condition as “irreversible” – it was predicted the paralysis she suffered would only get worse.
Until age 19, Alexandrina was still able to “drag herself” to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement of the parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening, however, she was forced to remain immobile and from 14 April 1925 until her death – approximately 30 years – she would remain bedridden, completely paralysed.
Alexandrina continued to ask the Blessed Mother for the grace of a miraculous healing, promising to become a missionary if she were healed.
Little by little, however, God helped her to see that suffering was her vocation and that she had a special call to be the Lord’s “victim”. The more Alexandrina “understood” that this was her mission, the more willingly she embraced it.
She said: “Our Lady has given me an even greater grace, first, abandonment, then, complete conformity to God’s will, finally, the thirst for suffering”.
Mission to suffer with Christ:
The desire to suffer continued to grow in her the more her vocation became clear, she understood that she was called to open the eyes of others to the effects of sin, inviting them to conversion and to offer a living witness of Christ’s passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity.
And so it was that from 3 October 1938 until 24 March 1942, Alexandrina lived the three-hour “passion” of Jesus every Friday, having received the mystical grace to live in body and soul Christ’s suffering in his final hours. During these three hours, her paralysis was “overcome” and she would relive the Stations of the Cross, her movements and gestures accompanied by excruciating physical and spiritual pain. She was also diabolically assaulted and tormented with temptations against the faith and with injuries inflicted on her body.
Human misunderstanding and incredulity were also a great cross for her, especially when those she most expected would “assist” her – members and leaders of the Church – were adding to her crucifixion.
An investigation conducted by the Curia of Braga resulted in a circular letter written by the Archbishop which contained a series of “prohibitions” regarding Alexandrina’s case. It was the result of a negative verdict made by a commission of priests.
In addition and by way of spiritual comfort, after her spiritual director, a Jesuit priest who had helped her from 1934 to 1941, stopped assisting her, a Salesian priest, Fr Umberto Pasquale, came to her aid in 1944.
Nourished only by the Eucharist: On 27 March 1942, a new phase began for Alexandrina which would continue for 13 years and seven months until her death. She received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist, at one point weighing as few as 33 kilos (approximately 73 pounds).
Medical doctors remained baffled by this phenomenon and began to conduct various tests on Alexandrina, acting in a very cold and hostile way towards her. This increased her suffering and humiliation but she remembered the words that Jesus himself spoke to her one day: “You will very rarely receive consolation… I want that while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile”.
As a result, those who visited or came into contact with Alexandrina always found a woman who, although in apparent physical discomfort, was always outwardly joyful and smiling, transmitting to all a profound peace. Few understood what she was deeply suffering and how real was her interior desolation.
Fr Pasquale, who stayed close to Alexandrina throughout these years, ordered Alexandrina’s sister to keep a diary of her words and her mystical experiences.
In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of the “Union of Salesian Cooperators” and offered her suffering for the salvation of souls and for the sanctification of youth. She kept a lively interest in the poor as well as in the spiritual health of those who sought out her counsel.
“Do not offend Jesus anymore!’:
As a “testimony” to the mission to which God had called her, Alexandrina desired the following words written on her tombstone: “Sinners, if the dust of my body can be of help to save you, come close, walk over it, kick it around until it disappears. But never sin again, do not offend Jesus anymore! Sinners, how much I want to tell you…. Do not risk losing Jesus for all eternity, for He is so good. Enough with sin. Love Jesus, love Him!”. Below is her Tomb, the Church where it resides in Balaza and her room for 30 years.
Alexandrina died on 13 October 1955. Her last words: “I am happy, because I am going to Heaven”. … Vatican.va
In Ireland there is an Alexandrina Society that spreads knowledge of her life and teachings. The aims of the Society are 1) To spread devotion to Alexandrina and make her known, 2) To pray for the conversion of sinners, 3) To pray for Priests and acknowledge any favours received, 4) To pray for members’ intentions. Amen.
One Minute Reflection – 6 October – Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Luke 17:5–10 and the Memorial of St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds (1715-1791)
‘Prepare supper for me’ ...Luke 17:8
REFLECTION – “To believe is not simply to sit back and wait until the Lord comes and serves us with His grace. Faith receives it’s incomprehensible efficacy (tossing a tree into the ocean), in the course of serving the Lord, who, after all, has become the servant of us all and cannot stand to see anyone lazily let himself be served by Him (sola fides). Instead, He takes it as self-evident, that His followers serve alongside Him, which really means they serve Him, for “where I am, there will my servant also be” (Jn 12:26).
Moreover, this serving does not take place in haughty pride over how useful to the Lord my co-service may be (as if He could not do anything without me). Just the opposite, in modesty, the servant knows the words of Jesus – “Without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
Since He has already done everything for us, the correct estimation of ourselves, is the one commanded by the Lord Himself and expressed in the Confession – “We are useless servants, we have only done our duty.” … Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
PRAYER – Almighty, ever-living God, whose love surpasses all that we ask or deserve, guide us to perfect obedience to conform ourselves to Your holy will, that in the manner of St Mary Frances, our only wish may be to serve and find You. May we always serve in modesty and humility and know that only in Your Son, are we complete. May the prayers of St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds be a source of strength on our journey home. Through Christ our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, God for all eternity, amen.
Saint of the Day – 6 October – Saint Mary Frances of the Five Wounds TOSF (1715-1791) – Virgin, Third Order Franciscan, Mystic, Stigmatist, Apostle of Charity, born Anna Maria Gallo on 25 March 1715 at Naples, Italy and died on 6 October 1791 at Naples, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Quartieri Spagnoli of Naples (co-patronof the Gallo World Family Foundation, expectant mothers, women seeking to have children.
She was born the daughter of Francesco Gallo and Barbara Basinsin, in the Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarter) of Naples, a red-light district of the city, still known for its high crime. According to tradition, another saint, the Jesuit, Francis de Geronimo (1642-1716), predicted her future sanctity while she was still an infant. Her family was of the middle class but her father, a weaver of gold lace, was a very violent man, who regularly abused his family physically, often severely.
When Gallo was sixteen, her father attempted to force her into a marriage with a young man of means, who was seeking her hand. She refused and asked to join the Franciscan Third Order, through which she could live out a religious life in the family home. The friars of Naples were part of the reform of St Peter of Alcantara and they and the tertiaries under their rul,e were known for the strictness of their lives. Through the intervention of a friar, Father Theophilus, permission to enter the Order was eventually granted by her father.
Gallo was received into the Order on 8 September 1731 and began wearing the religious habit of the Order, which was an uncommon practice during that time. She also adopted the use of the religious name she took upon being received into the Order, out of her devotion to the Blessed Mother, St Francis of Assisi and the Passion of Christ. She continued to live in the family home to serve God as a consecrated virgin, as was customary in those days.
She took as her spiritual director, the Franciscan friar, St John Joseph of the Cross OFM (1654–1739), while her confessor was the Barnabite priest, Francis Xavier Bianchi and she began to be known among her neighbours for her work of charity, helping the poor of the sector. She was a person of deep prayer, often spending long hours in meditation.
In 1753 she joined with another Franciscan tertiary, known only as Maria Felice and they moved into a small palace owned by a priest, Giovanni Pessiri, who became their spiritual director. The two women occupied the second floor, sleeping on the floor and the priest the floor above. She is said to have received the wounds of the stigmata while living there and suffered patiently many physical afflictions and spiritual trials. She would wear gloves to cover the marks on her hands, while she did her work. She is also said to have had visions of Saint Raphael the Archangel, who healed her of several afflictions.
Mary Frances was buried in the Franciscan Church of Santa Lucia al Monte in Naples, which she attended during her life. This church also contains the tomb of John Joseph, now also declared a saint.
Mary Frances was declared Venerable by Pope Pius VII, on 18 May 1803. She was Beatified by Pope Gregory XVI on 12 November 1843 and Canonised by Pope Pius IX on 29 June 1867.
Devotion to Mary Frances has long continued to be strong in the neighbourhood where she lived and of which she is the patron saint. The residents credit her intercession with the little damage the sector endured during World War II, when over 100 bombs were dropped on it. Her home has been preserved as a chapel and museum.
Pope Pius IX, who Canonised Mary Frances, declared her to be a patroness of expectant mothers and of women having difficulty conceiving. She is also the patroness of the Gallo World Family Foundation, which was founded to promote the development of Judeo-Christian values, for the betterment of the world, by members of the Gallo family scattered worldwide.
On 6 October 2001, her remains were transferred from the Church of Santa Lucia to the house where she had spent the last half of her life. It is now the Shrine of St Mary Frances of the Five Wounds.
It is still a common practice for expectant mothers to go there to be blessed with her relic. Many votive offerings from mothers who credit her with their successful deliveries are displayed in the sanctuary.
Thought for the Day – 5 October – The Memorial of St Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)
And you, Faustina, a gift of God to our time, a gift from the land of Poland to the whole Church, obtain for us an awareness of the depth of divine mercy, help us to have a living experience of it and to bear witness to it among our brothers and sisters.
May your message of light and hope spread throughout the world, spurring sinners to conversion, calming rivalries and hatred and opening individuals and nations to
the practice of brotherhood.
Today, fixing our gaze with you on the Face of the risen Christ, let us make our own your prayer of trusting abandonment and say with firm hope:
Christ Jesus, I trust in you! Jezu, ufam tobie!
(From St John Paul’s Canonisation Homily, St Peter’s Square, 30 April 2000)
The red and pale white rays, emanating from the Heart of Jesus, in the Image of Divine Mercy represent the blood and water, which gushed forth from His pierced Heart on Good Friday. Jesus asked that all who venerate His mercy, honour His Passion, by remembering Him with this prayer, at 3 O’Clock in the afternoon.
Divine Mercy 3 O’Clock Prayer St Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938)
You expired, O Jesus,
but the source of life
gushed forth for souls
and an ocean of mercy
opened up for the whole world.
O Fount of Life,
unfathomable Divine Mercy,
envelop the whole world
and empty Yourself out upon us.
O Blood and Water,
which gushed forth
from the Heart of Jesus
as a fount of mercy for us,
I trust in You.
Thought for the Day – 4 September – Wednesday of the Twenty-second week in Ordinary Time, Year C and the Memorial of Blessed Catherine of Racconigi OP (1486-1547)
Just as the Carmelites have their many famous Teresas so too do the Dominicans have their Catherines – St Catherine of Alexandria (c287-c305) (by adoption as patroness of the Order), St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) Doctor of the Church, St Catherine de Ricci (1522-2590), Bl Catherine Jarrige (1754-1836) and Bl Catherine of Racconigi, today’s saint. Most of these Catherine’s were espoused to the Lord. Many of them received crowns of thorns. They all showed the greatness of God’s grace to draw hearts close to Him.
Aside from being espoused to the Lord at the age of five and aside from receiving the stigmata and a crown of thorns, Bl Catherine of Racconigi is a prime example of Christ drawing hearts close to Him. Several times the Lord appeared to her and took her heart so that He might cleanse and beautify it. Moreover, as the tradition holds, the words Jesu, spes mea –“Jesus, my hope!”–were inscribed on her heart in letters of gold. Christ loves His virgin brides. The tokens that He has given them, especially to the saintly Dominicans cloistered nuns and active sisters, shows that He desires nothing but union with souls. Sometimes, this means sharing in the hardships of His Passion. For Bl Catherine, this meant a life of destitute poverty, abandonment by many friends at death and even the challenge of being deprived of her confessor before she died. Yet, through it all, her Hope–Christ the Lord, drew her to Himself, where she is now in perfect happiness in heaven.
O Lord, our Hope, who did enrich with an abundance of celestial gifts, the heart of Blessed Catherine, already filled with You, grant, through the intercession of that glorious Virgin, that You may be wholly fastened to our hearts, who for our sake, was wholly fastened to the cross, Christ our Lord. Amen.
Saint of the Day – 4 September – Blessed Catherine of Racconigi OP (1486-1547) – Third Order Dominican, Mystic, Stigmatist – born as Caterina Mattei in June 1486 in Racconigi, Cuneo, Italy and died on 4 September 1547 at Caramagna Piemonte, Cuneo, Italy.
Most of the information regarding Catherine Mattei is derived from a ‘vita’ written by her friend, John Francis Pico, Prince of Mirandola. Catherine Mattei was born in the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy in 1487 into an impoverished household in the Province of Cuneo. Intermittent conflicts in the area brought widespread poverty. Her parents were Giorgio and Bilia de Ferrari Mattei. Her father, an unemployed locksmith, became despondent and quarrelsome as so many do when they lose their livelihood. Her mother supported the family by weaving coarse cloth at home. Catherine and her brother grew up in an atmosphere that was absent of the peace of Christ.
Surprisingly, God reached the heart of little Catherine when she was only five. It was then that her mystical experiences began. Our Lady appeared to her while the tiny child was praying alone in her tiny room and told Catherine that Jesus wished to make her His spouse. Then, as a child her own age, Jesus Himself appeared, accompanied by many other saints including Catherine of Siena and Peter Martyr and the Blessed Mother placed the ring of espousal on her finger. Like the ring of Saint Catherine of Siena, it was visible to today’s saint but could not be seen by others.
Thereafter Catherine had frequent ecstasies and visions. Jesus always appeared to her as a man her own age, whatever that was at the time. He talked with her, taught her how to pray and several times took her heart away to cleanse it. When He appeared with His Cross, she offered to help Him. He let it rest on her shoulder a moment and it left a wound for the rest of her life. She also received the stigmata, though it too remained invisible to others and, at her request, it was only revealed by her confessor after her death.
And, of course, Jesus worked many miracles on behalf of His friend – made a broken dish whole again and provided money and food when the family’s poverty was extreme. In times of trial, the heavenly hosts came to comfort the girl who received great consolation from the aspiration, “Jesus, my hope!”
Because her family opposed her becoming a Dominican, she took the habit of a tertiary. Her mystical experiences roused a storm of gossip among her neighbours, who were terrified at the lights and sounds that came from her home. The devil stirred up more trouble to mitigate her influence over other souls. Even the Dominican fathers ostracised her and eventually she was forced out of town and settled in Racconigi.
There rich and poor sought out Catherine for her wise counsel, prayers and material assistance. She was almost continually in ecstasy. The particular object of Catherine’s prayers was the salvation of soldiers dying in battle and the holy souls in Purgatory. Numerous miracles occurred before and after her death and a cult arose at her tomb almost immediately. Even her persecutors were aware of her sanctity and retracted their bitter words.
Pope Pius VII confirmed her holiness and cult in 1810 by naming her Blessed.
Saint of the Day – 26 August – St Mary of Jesus Crucified OCD (1846-1878) Discalced Carmelite nun of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Virgin, Stigmatist, Mystic, apostle of charity. Born on 5 January 1846 at Galilee, Palestine as Mariam Baouardy and died on 26 August 1878, aged 32, at Bethlehem of gangrene following an injury received at the construction site of the Bethlehem monastery.
Mariam Baouardy was born on 5 January 1846 at Ibillin, a village in the Holy Land near Nazareth. Her parents were George Baouardy and Mariam Shashyn, they were Greek Catholics in a predominantly Muslin area. They were both persecuted for their faith and George spent some time in pri son. Their first 12 children, all boys, died in infancy so they decided to go on pilgrimage to Bethlehem, to beg Our Lady for a daughter and they promised to call her Mariam. Their prayers were answered when little Mariam was born, followed two years later by her only surviving brother, Paul. Mariam was baptised and confirmed when she was ten days old according to the Greek Catholic Rite. Sadly before she was three years old both her parents died from an infectious illness, within a few days of each other. When her father was dying he commended Mariam to the care of St Joseph, looking lovingly at a picture of him, he said ‘Great saint, here is my child, the Blessed Virgin is her mother, deign to look after her also, be her father’.
The siblings were then each taken in by relatives on different sides of her family living in different villages, she being taken in by a paternal uncle who lived in the same village and her brother went to live with a maternal aunt. The brother and sister would never see one another again. She was raised in a loving home in comfortable circumstances. As a child she had a marked spirit of religious fervour and at the age of five began to fast on Saturdays in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
When Mariam was eight, her uncle and his wife moved to Alexandria, Egypt, to improve their situation. Five years later, in 1858 when she was aged 13, in keeping with tradition, she was engaged by her uncle to his wife’s brother, who lived in Cairo. The night before the wedding, she had a religious experience in which she felt called not to marry but to offer her life to God. Upon being told this the following morning, her uncle flew into a rage and beat her severely. Despite this and the subsequent ill treatment she began to experience from her uncle, she stayed firm in her decision.
Mariam felt depressed and alone. She wrote her brother, then living in Nazareth, asking him to visit her. The young male servant she asked to deliver the letter drew out of her the cause for her sadness. Upon learning of this, he attempted to woo her for himself, inviting her to convert to Islam. She rejected his proposal, which caused the young man to fly into a rage, in which he drew a knife and cut her throat. He then dumped her body in a nearby alley. And then a miracle saved her. As she related later, a “nun dressed in blue” brought her to a grotto, which she could never identify, stitched her wounds and took care of her. Her voice was affected for the rest of her life as a result of the cut, which a French doctor later measured as being 10 cm wide. After being cared for by this mysterious figure for a month, she recovered enough to leave and find work as a domestic servant in the home of an Arab Christian family in the city.
In May 1863 a generous patron made it possible for Baouardy to move to Marseille, France, where she became the cook for an Arab family. While there, she felt called to enter a religious order. Rejected by the first groups to which she sought admission, in May 1865 she was accepted as a postulant by the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition, who had communities in the Holy Land and already had several Palestinian candidates. It was at this point, that she received the stigmata of Christ.
During the last month of this period of candidacy, the Mistress of novices, Mother Honorine who had drawn Baouardy’s life story from her, was replaced by Mother Veronica of the Passion. After two years as a postulant, Baouardy was up for a vote by the community regarding her admission to the congregation. To her dismay, she was rejected by the sisters charged with making the decision. But Divine Providence came to her aid for just then, Mother Veronica had just received permission to transfer to the Discalced Carmelite monastery at Pau to prepare for her forming a new congregation of Religious Sisters serving in India, the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel. She invited Baouardy to go with her, writing to the prioress of that community and recommending that they accept the young Arab woman. The prioress accepted Mother Veronica’s advice and, in June 1867, both women went together to Pau, where they received the Carmelite religious habit and Baourdy was given the religious name of Mary of Jesus Crucified.
In 1870, Baouardy went with the first group of Carmelite Apostolic Sisters to Mangalore, India. She served there for two years before returning to Pau. It was there she made her profession of solemn vows as a member of the Order in November 1871. In September 1875 she helped to found a new monastery in Bethlehem, the first of the Order in that region, where she lived until her death. During her whole life, she experienced periods of religious ecstasy frequently throughout the day.
St Pope John Paul II declared Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, Blessed on 13 November 1983 and she was Canonised on 15 May 2015 by Pope Francis. She became the second Greek Catholic to be Canonised, the first being St Josaphat Kuntsevych in 1867.
Saint of the Day – 24 July – Saint Christina Mirabilis (1150-1224) Virgin, mendicant, apostle of prayer of reparation, mystic – also known as Christina the Astonishing – Patronages – millers, people with mental disorders, mental health workers, mental health caregivers, professionals, psychiatrists and therapists.
St Christina was born to a peasant family in Belgium. She was orphaned as a child and raised by her two older sisters. When she was 21 she had what was believed to be a severe seizure and was pronounced dead. At her funeral she suddenly revived and levitated before the bewildered congregation. She said that during her coma she had been to heaven, hell and purgatory and had been given the option to either die and enter heaven, or return to earth to suffer and pray for the holy souls in purgatory.
Christina chose the greater act of charity. From then on she lived in extreme poverty, wearing rags, sleeping on rocks and begging for her food. She is called “Astonishing” because she did the most bizarre things and suffered the pains of inhuman feats without being physically harmed by them. She would roll in fire and hide in hot ovens; she would stand in freezing water for hours in the dead of winter; she allowed herself to be dragged under water by a mill wheel; she spent much time in graveyards. She would also climb trees to escape the strong odour of sin in those she met.
Many thought her to be possessed by demons or insane but many devout people recognised and vouched for her sincerity, obedience and sanctity. They believed, that she was a living witness to the pains that souls experience in purgatory, willingly suffering with them and for them. Christina the Astonishing is the patron of those with mental illness and disorders, mental health workers, psychiatrists and therapists.
Thomas of Cantimpré (1201–1272), then a canon regular who was a professor of theology, wrote a report eight years after her death, based on accounts of those who knew her. Cardinal Jacques de Vitry, who met with her, said that she would throw herself into burning furnaces and there suffered great tortures for extended times, uttering frightful cries, yet coming forth with no sign of burns upon her. In winter she would plunge into the frozen Meuse River for hours and even days and weeks at a time, all the while praying to God and imploring God’s mercy. She sometimes allowed herself to be carried by the currents downriver to a mill where the wheel “whirled her round in a manner frightful to behold”, yet she never suffered any dislocations or broken bones. She was chased by dogs which bit her without any bodily injury.
Christina died at the Dominican Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sint-Truiden, of natural causes, aged 74. The prioress there later testified that, despite her unusual methodds of reparation, Christina would humbly and fully obey any command given her by the prioress.
“We have”, says St Robert Bellarmine (1542–1621) Doctor of the Church, referring to the report of Thomas of Cantimpré, “reason for believing his testimony, since he has for guarantee another grave author, James de Vitry, Bishop and Cardinal and because he relates what happened in his own time and even in the province where he lived. Besides, the sufferings of this admirable virgin were not hidden. Everyone could see that she was in the midst of the flames without being consumed and covered with wounds, every trace of which disappeared a few moments afterwards. But, more than this, was the marvellous life she led for forty-two years after she was raised from the dead, God clearly showing that the wonders wrought in her by virtue from on high. The striking conversions which she effected and the evident miracles which occurred after her death, manifestly proved the finger of God and the truth of that which, after her resurrection, she had revealed concerning the other life.”
Thus, argues Bellarmine, “God willed to silence those libertines who make open profession of believing in nothing and who have the audacity to ask in scorn, Who has returned from the other world? Who has ever seen the torments of Hell or Purgatory? Behold two witnesses. They assure us that they have seen them and that they are dreadful. What follows, then, if not that the incredulous are inexcusable and that those who believe and nevertheless, neglect to do penance, are still more to be condemned?”
St Christina the Astonishing has been recognised as a saint since the 12th century. She was placed in the calendar of the saints by at least two bishops of the Catholic Church in two different centuries (17th & 19th) that also recognised her life in a religious order and preservation of her relics. There remains a strong devotion to her in her native region of Limburg.
Saint of the Day – 19 June – St Juliana Falconieri OSM (1270 – 1341) Virgin and Foundress of the Religious Sisters of the Order of Servites, Mystic, apostle of charity – born in 1270 at Florence, Italy and died on 12 June 1341 at Florence, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – sick people, sickness. Her relics lie at the church of San Annunziata in Florence which was built by her father.
Juliana Falconieri was born in answer to prayer, in 1270. Her father built the splendid church of the Annunziata in Florence, while her uncle, Blessed Alexius, became one of the founders of the Servite Order. Under his care Juliana grew up, as he said, more like an angel than a human being. Such was her modesty that she never used a mirror or gazed upon the face of a man during her whole life. The mere mention of sin made her shudder and tremble and once hearing a scandal related she fell into a dead swoon.
Her devotion to the sorrows of Our Lady drew her to the Servants of Mary and, at the age of fourteen, she refused an offer of marriage and received the habit from St Philip Benizi de Damaini (1233-1285) himself, one of the seven holy founders.
Her sanctity attracted many novices, for whose direction she was bidden to draw up a rule and thus with reluctance she became foundress of the “Mantellate”. The Servites’ dress consisted of a black gown, secured by a leather girdle and a white veil. Because the gown had short sleeves to facilitate work, people called the sisters of the new Order “Mantellate.” The sisters devoted themselves especially to the care of the sick and other works of mercy.She was with her children as their servant rather than their mistress, while outside her convent she led a life of apostolic charity, converting sinners, reconciling enemies and healing the sick by sucking with her own lips their ulcerous sores.
She was sometimes rapt for whole days in ecstasy and her prayers saved the Servite Order when it was in danger of being suppressed. She was visited in her last hour by angels in the form of white doves and Jesus Himself, as a beautiful child, crowned her with a garland of flowers. She wasted away through a disease of the stomach, which prevented her taking food. She bore her silent agony with constant cheerfulness, grieving only for the privation of Holy Communion.
At last, when, in her seventieth year, she had sunk to the point of death, she begged to be allowed once more to see and adore the Blessed Sacrament. It was brought to her cell, and reverently laid on a corporal, which was placed over her heart. At this moment she expired and the Sacred Host disappeared. After her death the form of the Host was found stamped upon her heart in the exact spot over which the Blessed Sacrament had been laid. Immediately after her death she was honoured as a saint.
The Servite Order was approved by Pope Martin V in the year 1420. Pope Benedict XIII recognised the devotion long paid to her and granted the Servites permission to celebrate the feast of the Blessed Juliana. Pope Clement XII Canonised her in the year 1737 and extended the celebration of her feast day to the entire Church. Juliana is usually represented in the habit of her Order with a host upon her breast.
Quote/s of the Day – 13 May – Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter, C and the Memorial of Blessed Julian of Norwich (c 1342-c 1430) – “Revelations of Divine Love”
“He [ Jesus] is our clothing, that for love wraps us and winds us, embraces us and totally encloses us, hanging about us in tender love.”
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.”
“Despite all our feelings of woe or of well-being, God wants us to understand and to believe, that we are more truly in heaven than on earth. …for God is never out of the soul, in which He will dwell blessedly without end.”
“The fullness of Joy is to behold God in everything.”
“Truth sees God and wisdom contemplates God and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.”
“In You, Father almighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In You, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother and Saviour. In You, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing, for love You wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe, that by Your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen”
Saint of the Day – 13 May – Blessed Julian of Norwich (c 1342-c 1416) (aged 73–74) Anchorite, Mystic, Writer, Ascetic, Spiritual director – also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian – born late 1342 and died after 1416) was the greatest of all the English anchorites of the Middle Ages. She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.
It was popular in the 14th century for a number of English men and women to withdraw from the world as hermits, they were known as anchorites. Their hermitage, was a small room attached to a local church. Each room had two windows. One through the church wall permitting the anchorite to receive communion. Through the second window, the anchorite received food brought to him or her by village people. Thus they at all times had the window of their heart open to Christ and open to the world.
As a young woman, Julian, who was born about 1342, became an anchorite at the Church of St Edmund and St Julian in Norwich. When she was 30 Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373. Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened (although the text may not have been finished for some years), entitled Revelations of Divine Love. Twenty to thirty years later, perhaps in the early 1390s, Julian began to write a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions, known as The Long Text. This work seems to have gone through many revisions before it was finished, perhaps in the first or even second decade of the fifteenth century. Until her death in about 1416, Julian stayed in her simple room. Like most anchorites, she prayed, fasted, did penance, studied, sewed clothing for the poor and advised the village people.
In her book, she described her 16 visions of Jesus. As she wrote this book about God’s great compassion for us, Julian developed a special vocabulary. She called the Creator, our mother and our father. She called Jesus the Redeemer, our brother. Revelations is a celebrated work in Catholicism because of the clarity and depth of Julian’s visions of God. Julian of Norwich is now recognised as one of England’s most important mystics.
Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God’s love in terms of joy and compassion, as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved everyone and wanted to save them all. Popular theology, magnified by catastrophic contemporary events such as the Black Death and a series of peasant revolts, asserted that God punished the wicked . Julian suggested a more merciful theology, she believed that behind the reality of hell is a greater mystery of God’s love. In modern times, she has been classified as a proto-universalist, although she did not claim more than hope, that all might be saved.
At the time of Julian’s death, people from all over Europe travelled to her room, or cell, to ask her advice. Everyone recognised that she was close to God. The Church never formally declared her a saint but through the ages, people have called her “Blessed.”
“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown – that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”
Julian of Norwich
Saint of the Day – 28 April – Blessed Itala Mela ObSB (1904–1957) – Laywoman, Mystic, Benedictine Oblate, Theological Writer.
Blessed Itala was an Italian Roman Catholic who was a lapsed Christian until a conversion of faith in the 1920s and as a Benedictine oblate assumed the name of “Maria della Trinità”. She became one of the well-known mystics of the Church during her life and indeed following her death. She also penned a range of theological writings that focused on the Trinity, such an integral element of the Christian faith.
Itala Mela was born on 28 August 1904 in La Spezia to Pasquino Mela and Luigia Bianchini, both were atheist teachers. She spent her childhood in the care of her maternal grandparents from 1905 to 1915, as her parents worked and her grandparents prepared Mela for her First Communion and Confirmation – she made on 9 May 1915 and 27 May 1915 respectively.
The death of her brother Enrico at the age of nine (27 February 1920) challenged Mela’s perception of her Christian faith and she wrote of her feelings to the loss: “After his death, nothing”. As a result, she eschewed her Christian faith and slipped into atheism. However, at the age of 18 she had a profound spiritual experience whichresulted in the reawakening of her faith, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec. 1922). After rediscovering God, her faith deepened with the motto she took being: “Lord, I shall follow You unto the darkness, unto death”.
Bl Itala became a member of FUCI (Federation of Catholic Students) in 1923, where she met future pope Giovanni Battista Montini (St Paul VI) and Bl Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster OSB (1880-1954) at the meetings there. She also met the priests Divo Barsotti and Agostino Gemelli OFM. At such meetings, Monsignor Montini and both the politicians Aldo Moro and Giulio Andreotti, both of the Christian Democracy Party served as major influences upon her.
She passed her studies in 1922 with recognition of being a brilliant student and was enrolled at the University of Genoa on the following 11 November, where she later received a degree in letters in 1928 as well as in classical studies.
Bl Itala experienced her first vision of God on 3 August 1928 as a beam of light at the tabernacle, in a church of a seminary at Pontremoli. She wrote afterwards, “The will of Christ, which I feel in the depths of my soul, is to drag me, to immerse myself with Himself in the abysses of the Holy Trinity … It is useless to look for other ways, this is what He has chosen for my sanctification.” Feeling called to the religious life, she tried to enter a Benedictine convent but health did not allow her to remain. Instead she became a Benedictine Oblate and consecrated herself to the Holy Trinity.
She departed for Milan at this time and chose as her confessor Adriano Bernareggi., who later became the Archbishop of Bergamo.
Her true calling as a Benedictine oblate came in 1929 and solidified to the point, where she commenced her novitiate. It concluded on 4 January 1933 when she made her profession in Rome in the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura making her four vows. As a sign of her new life, Mela assumed the name of “Maria della Trinità – Maria of the Trinity”. She composed many profound spiritual writings and continued to have spiritual visions and ecstasies. She even proposed a special memorial to Mary of the Trinity to Pope Pius XII, which he approved in 1941.
In Genoa from 5–15 October 1946, Mela composed a series of spiritual exercises for the benefit of the faithful, the exercises were well received.
Bl Itala died on 29 April 1957 aged 52. Her remains were later transferred to the La Spezia Cathedral in 1983.
She was proclaimed Venerable on 12 June 2014 after Pope Francis approved her life of heroic virtue. On 14 December 2015 the pope also approved a miracle attributed to her intercession which allowed for her Beatification to take place. Bl Itala was beatified in La Spezia on 10 June 2017 and Cardinal Angelo Amato presided over the celebration on the pope’s behalf. The miracle in question concerned the revival of an Italian newborn, whose body was in state of clinical brain death.
Pope Francis said on Sunday, 11 June 2017, the day after her Beatification:
Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in La Spezia, Itala Mela was Beatified.
She was raised in a family far removed from the faith, in her youth she professed to be an atheist but converted after an intense spiritual experience. She worked among Catholic university students, she then became a Benedictine Oblate and followed a mystic path centred on the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which we celebrate today in a special way. May the witness of the new Blessed encourage us, during our days, to turn our thought often to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who abides in the chamber of our heart.
The Spiritual Experience of Itala Mela, a Life Incandescently Immersed in the Trinity
This present translation in English is the most recent development of an ongoing study regarding Itala Mela and the profound mysteries that our Lord revealed to her regarding the Inhabitation of the Most Blessed Trinity. This is a most telling narrative describing the work of God in each individual soul for the fulfilment of the destiny of mankind. A work achieved by co-operation to grace and acceptance of the circumstances of life with an eye to advancing the Kingdom within oneself and the world around us.
Itala is an example of an ordinary life of an ordinary person and how God takes this ordinariness and makes it extraordinary. Yes, sanctity is for everyone, if only we see to understand and act in love. The journey begins today with a light for each step of our path.